Skip to main content

Hotel Grinnell

A week ago today, I had the opportunity to tour the still-under-construction Hotel Grinnell. For those of you not in town, as well as you not paying a lot of attention, Angela Harrington, the former director of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, has gathered a group of investors to purchase the old City of Grinnell / Grinnell Community Center building on 4th and Park [1] and to turn it into a destination hotel. I’ve never quite understood that goal. While I love Grinnell, I’m not sure why anyone would choose us as a destination hotel. But Angela is clearly a force of nature and seeing the building under (re-)construction helps me understand her vision.

So, what’s happening to the building? They’ve stripped it down to the floors on the first, second, and third floor. Surprisingly, there’s a nice mosaic-like floor [2] on the ground level, near the main entrance. More importantly, the second and third floors have beautiful hardwood floors. The ones I saw were still in the process of being sanded, but it’s clear that they’ll be wonderful. They’ve framed off the walls, with some of them even at drywall stage. Standing in the rooms reveals some things that will feel special: They have great light from the windows [3] and incredibly high ceilings.

I’d been worried about the Voortman Theatre [4], which I consider an important part of our town. I’ve certainly seen a number of good shows there. I’m glad to hear that Angela intends to retain it as a theatre and, over the long term, hopes to restore some of the clear glory of that room. For now, it seems like it will be a space that can be rented. I look forward to continuing to see shows there!

As you might expect, Angela is turning the old gymnasium [5] into the ballroom for the hotel. It’s currently storing a lot of the materials for the building, but I expect that it will be an interesting space, and the hardwood floor is very hard.

So, why will this be a destination hotel, other than the tall ceilings, the theatre, and the ballroom? Angela is certainly intent on providing first-class service in the hotel. What makes a hotel is not just the spaces; it’s the people and amenities who support those spaces. I’m not sure whether or not she can achieve the goals of service she aspires to, but I am sure that if anyone can achieve those levels, Angela can. She also seems interested in building a strong and adaptable staff; she’s paying more than the going rate for local hotel staff, and she’s providing health benefits. I hope that she is successful at building a strong staff [6].

Touring the hotel, it’s clear that Angela is thinking of wedding parties as one of the primary audiences for the hotel. She has a bridal suite that’s separated from the rest of the rooms, and it even has its own private stairway to the ballroom [7]. There are even some bunkrooms in the basement to stash the kids away :-). The opportunity to combine the various spaces in the hotel will likely be quite attractive to many folks.

The restaurant/bar, at the southwest corner of the building (near the old Parks and Rec offices), looks to be interesting. The patio will look out on Central park. Angela, as a former head of our Chamber of Commerce, seems to be working hard not to compete with other businesses in town. She’s looking to serve things not served otherwise in town, rather than to duplicate existing offerings. We’ll see how that goes.

Are there things missing from the hotel? Yes. There’s no pool. I assume that pools are expensive to build and maintain. But I’ll note that my other favorite destination hotel, the Hotel Pattee, manages to fit in a sauna and large whirlpool instead. It would be great to have those amenities. Speaking of the Hotel Pattee, it would also be cool to have a bowling alley. Since she doesn’t want to compete with area businesses, she could have Candlepin alleys. I wonder if it’s too late to convince her of that?

In any case, Angela turned me from a skeptic into a (near) believer. It looks like the hotel will be spectacular. It will certainly be helpful as another location for folks to stay during the busy weekends on campus, such as Family weekend, graduation, and the indoor track and field championships. The bunkhouses may be popular with teams visiting the town. But, given Angela’s clear commitment, what will almost certainly make the difference will be the service in the hotel. I look forward to taking Michelle there for an evening not-so-far away from home.

Good luck Angela! I look forward to seeing the hotel open in three months!

The author of this piece received no compensation, other than the opportunity to walk through the under-construction hotel. That opportunity was available to many members of the College community.

Of course, the author would not turn down the opportunity for a complimentary stay in exchange for an honest review.

[1] Yeah, I know. To some of you, it’s the old Junior High School or some such. But it’s been the City of Grinnell building for the twenty years that I’ve lived in town.

[2] Angela had a name for it, but I’m not sure what it was.

[3] I must admit that the view of the Drake Community Library and the nearby buildings is not very exciting. Angela needs to find a way to turn the whole building so that windows face the newly renovated Central Park.

[4] Did I get the name right? I’m having trouble with my Web search.

[5] I think of the gymnasium primarily as the location at which I used to vote. But I do recall doing some other events in there, too.

[6] Note that she’s hiring now. Some information is on their Facebook page. They need more positions than appear there. The page includes openings for a Guest Services Manager and an Event Planner; I believe she also needs an accountant and more. I assume you can contact her for more info.

[7] I’ve never been a bride and I never plan to be a bride. From my perspective, private stairway sounds better in concept than in practice. After all, if I’m in heels and a gown [8], won’t I want to take the elevator, rather than the stairs?

[8] No, I have no intent to wear heels and a gown.

Version 1.0.1 of 2017-05-05.